Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Parenting

While fiction is my best friend, I'm one of those people who turns to nonfiction books when I want to learn about something.  The following are some of the most helpful parenting books I've read, with an obvious emphasis on parenting adopted children.  They go in chronological order of when I read them.

1.  Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher
I read this in grad school, long before I had kids, but I found it fascinating, and I know some of the thoughts I first encountered here about how strong girls morph into self-loathing teens continue to influence both how I teach and how I parent.

2.  Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Another pre-parenting read, this collection of essays is fascinating to anyone who is interested in human beings, although of particular interest to those who are actually raising human beings.

3.  The Complete Book of International Adoption: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Your Child by Dawn Davenport
You don't even want to know how many "how to adopt" books I read in 2010 and 2011.  This was the best of the bunch.  Davenport also has a helpful internet presence.


4-7. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen, Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents by Deborah H. Gray, The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis and Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control by Heather T. Forbes.
These are the books that live in my bookcase and that I refer back to again and again.  If you're wondering, "How different can it be?" or thinking "Maybe if you stopped seeing your kids as adopted kids and just treated them like kids, you'd all be happier" then you are exactly where I was before I started this whole process.  Adoption starts with loss.  If my kids' lives had gone--not just "well" but "within the normal bounds of socially acceptable levels of dysfucntion"--they would not have needed new parents.  If, once their parents lost their rights,  someone else in their family had been willing and able to parent them, they wouldn't have spent two years in a dangerous orphanage with other kids who'd been damaged by life's lessons.  If their country had a healthy system of foster and adoptive care, they wouldn't have had to give up their first language and culture in order to get adopted.  Trust me, they need knowledgable parents, and we need all the help we can get.  A lot of the information has made its way into our brains and our practice, but when times get tough, I find Cogen, Grey, Purvis and Forbes always have a new idea or cogent reminder for me.

8.  No Biking In the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene
The Greenes raised four kids, then adopted five more.  I first heard about this book when I read an excerpt, in which she writes about her struggles bonding to the final child, adopted at four from Bulgaria.  Her honesty and humor make this a great read even if you have no special interest in adoptive parenting.

9.  Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge
This memoir is from a different point of view--that of a child whose beloved mother loses custody of him due to her mental illness.  He bounces from prison-like group home to horrible foster home but maintains his connection with his mom.

10.  Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
Lamott seems to be a you-love-her-or-you-hate her kind of author.  I love her.  This book, her memoir of becoming a mother, is as always hilariously honest, embarrassingly spiritual, frequently wise and occasionally pretentious.


  1. Hope's Boy sounds like a heart-breaking read. I love that its from the child's point of view and that he maintains his connection with him mom.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

  2. That is a really comprehensive list...some interesting suggestions there. Also some great peeks into other people's experiences, which can always be enlightening.

    A Bit to Read


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